Breakthrough medicine: Narcissus extract can eliminate cancer cells

Are daffodils revolutionizing cancer treatment?

Doctors are always looking for new ways and means to effectively treat cancer. In a recent study, the researchers found that an extract from daffodils has properties that can kill cancer.

The scientists at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium discovered in their investigation that an extract from daffodils could possibly be used in the future to treat cancer. The extract can apparently trigger cancer cell death. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Structure".

Cancer-inhibiting properties of hemanthamine

In their research, the experts examined the cancer-inhibiting properties of a natural narcissus extract called hemanthamine. Hemanthamine (HAE) is a so-called natural alkaloid, a naturally occurring substance that is found in plants and has a strong physiological effect in humans. The scientists explain that daffodil extract could be very helpful in the fight against cancer. HAE can have effects on cancer cells that can overcome the resistance of the cells, explains study author Dr. Denis Lafontaine from the Faculty of Sciences at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Some plants can help fight cancer

In their study, the doctors tried to find out how plants with so-called amaryllidaceae alkaloids can fight cancer. Due to their pharmacologically active compounds, Amaryllidaceae plants belong to the plants which have great potential in combating cancer.

What role do ribosomes play?

As the researchers explain in their study, cancer cells need protein synthesis to grow and evolve. So-called cell organelles, which are also known as ribosomes, are crucial for the synthesis of proteins. Ribosomes are often viewed as a type of micromachine for protein production, doctors say. In a way, ribosomes are the Achilles' heel of cancer cells. The malignant cells are particularly sensitive to therapies that prevent the proper functioning of ribosomes.

Narcissus extract blocks production of ribosomes

HAE inhibits the production of proteins, say the doctors. This is due to the effect on the ribosomes. The daffodil extract appears to block the production of ribosomes in the so-called nucleolus. According to the researchers, the nucleolar stress induced in this way triggers a chain reaction, which leads to the elimination of cancer cells. The chain reaction activates the stabilization of a protein called p53, which in turn causes cell death. According to the authors, this is the first time that a study has provided a molecular explanation for the anti-cancer properties of daffodils, which have been used as medicinal plants in folk medicine since ancient times.

Morphine, quinine and ephedrine belong to the same family as HAE

With reference to Amaryllidaceae alkaloids, the study authors explain that their biological activities are not limited to the anti-cancer activity. They also appear to include various other effects, such as antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. The powerful analgesic morphine, quinine (which is used against malaria) and ephedrine (to treat asthma) all belong to the same family as HAE, the scientists explain.

More research is needed

The researchers are now planning to examine four Amaryllidaceae alkaloids in more detail to find the most promising compound, which can then be developed into an effective form of cancer therapy. (as)

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